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Word For You Today

THIS IS YOUR LIFE

It's easy to let your eyes drift off what God's given you and find yourself fixated on someone else's lot. Surprisingly, God has a lot to say about this idea of contentment with your own lot in life. Have a good read of the book of Ecclesiastes. Chapter 5 verses 18-20 lays out how God's given you opportunities to scrape joy out of every corner your life. Another version puts it like this: 'It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy... for it is his heritage' (NKJV).

But when you're struggling to get that contentment and basic happiness out of life, another person's life suddenly becomes much more appealing. One myth, the 'forever myth', tells you your own situation will never improve. Another, the 'never myth', says if things get any worse you'll never be able to handle them. Both are distortions. Contentment with your life comes from the hands of the God who deals out enough, for each person, for today.

So what now? Think over things in your life that you may take for granted: a great friend, listening to music, sports or the taste of your favourite meal. God has made them all for your appreciation, signs that He's with you. If you're going through some tough times, remember that they'll pass, and that God's with you all the way (Isaiah 41:10).

Soulfood : 2 Ki 16:1 - 18:16, Luke 17:20-37, Ps 115, Prov 8:1-3

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MEET GOD. AGAIN.

Silence isn't absence. Sometimes God says to you, 'Be still, and know that I am God' (Psalm 46:10 NIV). When God seems silent, He can be giving us a chance to discover Him again in a totally new way.

You have to be really secure with somebody to just sit quietly with them. Silence takes the emphasis off words and builds a level of intimacy where they're no longer necessary. Something changes in your relationship with God when you sit silently with Him.

But what if you're waiting desperately for some answer to prayer? First up, check out the conversation around today's verse in Job. Second, Charles Trumbull said, 'God knows when to withhold or grant visible signs of encouragement. It's good when He sends confirmation, but we grow faster when we've trusted Him without it. Those who do, always receive the greatest visible evidence of His love.' God answers every prayer; it's just that across some He writes, 'Just wait.'

It takes as long as it takes - and usually feels uncomfortable the whole time. But there's good news. Eventually your prayers become less about getting answers and more about realising that you're with God, and right alongside His long-lasting provision for you, at a deeper level than you imagined.

So what now? (Yes, this is the same 'So what now?' as yesterday's reading.) If this reading speaks to you today - stop asking for things. Just for a little while. Plan some prayer times over the next few days that are just for listening out for God, and look for Him speaking to you in an unexpected way.

Soulfood : 2 Ki 10-12, Luke 16:19-31, Ps 24, Prov 7:24-25

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MEET YOURSELF. AGAIN.

'Lord. Where. Are. You?' Do you feel like God isn't answering that prayer? Job felt like it too. 'I cry out to You, O God, but You do not answer; I stand up, but You merely look at me... When I hoped for good, evil came; when I looked for light, then came darkness' (Job 30:20 & 26 NIV). All of us go through times when it feels like God vanished when we weren't looking. And when we go looking in the place where we left Him, He isn't there.

When you've been in that place for a while, you meet two old friends for the first time, again. Yourself. And, eventually, God. By recognising that God doesn't always talk in the same way, you surrender that control over your expectations. But when you give that up, you get something else. Maybe you used to hear from God in a particular way. That's ok. That's normal. The change there isn't Him abandoning you.

As Mother Teresa said, 'In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. It is only when you realise your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself.' There's a real communication that goes on when you and God are silent together. More on that tomorrow, too.

So what now? If this speaks to you today - stop asking for things. Just for a little while. Plan some prayer times over the next few days that are just for listening out for God, and look for Him speaking to you in an unexpected way.

Soulfood : 2 Ki 7-9, Luke 16:1-18, Ps 135, Prov 7:21-23

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YOU CAN PICKLE THAT

There are very few things in the world worth pickling. Pickled onions. Pickled eggs. Pickled pigs' feet. Ok, we'll stop there. Today's proverb says 'Discretion will preserve you.' It's worth preserving a character of decency and keeping it stored up inside you. Discretion is basically being really guarded about the sort of facts you know about other people - sensitive facts, like 'She struggles with hating her family,' 'He's really conscious of his self-esteem,' 'He was once a drug addict,' etc.

Divulging what you know about other people's problems and failures can award you with captive attention from an uncaring crowd, that may make you feel good momentarily, but afterwards it may have a terrible impact on the relationship. Plus, you get a reputation as a person who can't be trusted. Not good.

You've probably said the wrong thing, at the wrong time, to the wrong person, and ended up biting your fist on the way out the door. The good thing is you actually can conserve and preserve good characteristics. Once you've started to hold your tongue in one tricky situation, it gets easier the next time, and so on. Sometimes you need a prompt to start acting that way, though. Make sure to not let that prompt be someone's shock over some accidentally revealed info.

So what now? Run through the sensitive things you know about other people that would hurt them if they got out. Draw up your own privacy policy. Decide that this is info you won't share or sell to unnamed third parties. Let your discretion preserve your character.

Soulfood : 2 Ki 4:18 - 6:33, Luke 15:11-32, Ps 27, Prov 7:10-20

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TURN IT UP

Augustine defined sin as 'humanity turned in upon itself'. Now, you might be pretty confident in yourself, Or, you might be someone who really struggles to accept compliments, who doesn't really like mirrors (or friends with camera-phones...) and sees no reason why anyone should like you - psst... you're made in God's image and He thinks you're beautiful, by the way.

Either way, the problem comes when we look at ourselves (or others) more than we look at God. If we spend more time looking at ourselves (yes, whether out of self-love or self-loathing), we're taking our eyes off the One who wants to give us the true, objective definition of who we really are. It's not even about what we think of ourselves: it's that we think of ourselves more.

Martin Luther said, 'I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess.' Putting everything, especially ourselves, into God's hands, is the best and only way to keep our perspective right. So what about those worries? Or about those doubts? Will I be able to keep this up? Will I ever be good enough? 'Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you' (Psalm 55:22 NIV).

So what now? Today, make a point to walk everywhere with a straight back, chin up. As you walk, mull over where in your life you're 'turned in upon yourself', rather than looking 'up' at Jesus' opinion of you. (Also, it's good posture...:)).

Soulfood : 2 Ki 1:1 - 4:17, Luke 15:1-10, Ps 112, Prov 7:6-9

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HE AIN'T HEAVY, HE'S MY BROTHER

'Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.' Galatians 6:2 NKJV

Truth is, you'll probably need to be lifted and carried for parts of your life - things will get tricky. But that's not the long-term plan. Instead of always having to be lifted, God wants you to lift others.

Why is it 'more blessed to give than to receive' (Acts 20:35 NKJV)? When you give out (of your personal resources, your ability to bless others, your spiritual gifts), you make yourself vulnerable and open to relying on God to make it up to you. God, then, can make it up to you by pouring out everything you need and more, not just enough for your own needs, but just sheer brick-tons left over to give out - joyfully - to others. That's the cycle. God will give you so much so that you can give away so much. When you're in a community, and everyone is giving away on a person-to-person level, you'll all be provided for, and that's how God has designed things to be. (PS: this currency is God's, though, and He gives you what He wants for you, not necessarily $500 in an envelope after you double-tithed last week)

When you're all wrapped up in yourself, you make a pretty small package. It's when you open up and reach out in love to others that you begin to grow, and that God flows through you big time.

So what now? This coming weekend, organise one day around someone else. Suggest that you hang out and, when you do, see if there's anything you can help them with or pray about with them. You'll be fulfilling the law of Christ.


SoulFood: Rev 19-22; Luke 14:25-35; Ps 106:24-48; Pro 7:3-5

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REPACK YOUR BACKPACK

Galatians 6 starts by telling us to keep watch on ourselves. It's telling us to step back every now and then and take stock of our life.

Know what's inside you. Learn how to outsmart your own weaknesses. God's growth plan for you is: 'We will no longer be immature... We won't be tossed and blown about... We will not be influenced when people try to trick us... Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ' (Ephesians 4:14-15 NLT).

Say your life is a backpack you're lugging up a steep hill. Wouldn't it be fairly helpful to know what's in there, and why? If you're still being defeated by the same habits and hang-ups you struggled with as a new believer, or five years ago, then pause - God wants you to be aware of what's going on inside you. Search out His help. Instead of always having to be 'carried', get on your feet to the place where you can feed yourself spiritually (with the right stuff - Spirit-food that'll help you grow), pray in faith over your own problems, and make Spirit-led decisions concerning your life.

So what now? Write down on different bits of paper all the things - spiritual gifts, strong friendships, defining moments, wrong choices - that float around your heart and head. Now start to pack your backpack. What's worth putting in for the journey? And what'll just weigh you down? Give some of them to God to deal with if you're not sure.

Soulfood : 1 Sam 21:1-6, Hosea 6:4-6, Matt 12:1-14, Matt 12:1-14

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